This Lenten season, rather than taking something out of my life to observe this 40 day journey – I have added to my life. I've taken on two separate daily devotions for the journey – both of which give me something to think about each day. If discipline in the spiritual life is "the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God's guidance," then a discipline of adding more devotion time seems quite appropriate. I hope my Lenten discipline will create flexible boundaries "that keep time and space open for God – a time and a place where God's gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to." I feel like this is a much better use of my time than taking French fries or soda out of my life. How is the absence of fast food going to help me grow closer to God?
Today I'm mostly intrigued by the writings of Thomas Merton. He introduces the notion of compunction.
"Compunction is a baptism of sorrow, in which the tears of the penitent are a psychological but also deeply religious purification, preparing and disposing him [or her] for the sacramental waters of baptism or for the sacrament of penance. Such sorrow brings joy because it is at once a mature acknowledgment of guilt and the acceptance of its full consequences: hence it implies a religious and moral adjustment to reality, the acceptance of one's actual condition. The acceptance of reality is always a liberation from the burden of illusion that we strive to justify by our errors and our sins. Compunction is a necessary sorrow, but it is followed by joy and relief because it wins for us one of the greatest blessings: the light of truth and the grace of humility. The tears of the Christian penitent are real tears, but they bring joy."
My first thought – is what the heck is compunction? I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary base – but then again – there's always room for more. Compunction being regret, reluctance, guilt or hesitation seems scary to me. I've always said I don't like to live with regrets – only learning experiences – so the idea that I need to live with a certain amount of regret seems terrifying. But I'm thinking compunction is something different: to regret doing something because of its negative outcome – but still committing to learn from the experience – not simply wishing it hadn't happened. By saying I live without regrets – I've been striving to justify an illusion – which has become a burden. It's not that I've ignored my wrongdoings – but I realize now that trying to live completely without regrets is a bad thing. Without acknowledging the negative effect something has had on your life – how can you really rectify the occurrence or change your behavior for the better? By fully acknowledging the wrong-doing, either to yourself, towards God, or toward another, you are liberating yourself from the illusion that it didn't happen, or that it wasn't as bad as others say it was. It's a matter of cleansing yourself from the burden – not simply ignoring it because you don't want to have regrets. I pray that God would bestow God's grace upon me, so that life's disappointments, and my regrets, will bring out the best in me and not the worst. I pray that by admitting my regrets, and cleansing them from my life – I will allow for God to move more fully in my life, that I might be preparing a place for God. Amen.